Skip to main content

Sarah in Parliament

SARAH IN PARLIAMENT

Below is a full list of my speeches and questions in Parliament.

Photo of Sarah Jones
20 July 2022

That is an important question. Several things are linked to the reporting. First, people do not believe that anything will be done. Sadly, that is partly because twice as many people as 10 years ago now perceive that they never see a police officer on the streets. People do not feel that it is worth reporting, because they do not think they will get a response.

Secondly, at a national level, the Government do not collect data on antisocial behaviour. There was a debate in this place a few months ago where a Conservative Member made the case for the Government to record antisocial behaviour nationally, because it is not part of the metric so everybody reports and records it differently. Everybody has different approaches—some people use some interventions and some people use others—and there is no consistency across the country. In answer to the hon. Member’s question, people are loth to report it because they think that nothing will be done, and they do not see it as something that is prioritised at a national level.

Photo of Sarah Jones
20 July 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I congratulate the hon. Member for Redcar (Jacob Young) on securing this important debate, which is timely and very pressing. My first job after university was working for the former Member for Redcar, Mo Mowlam, so I know his area a bit, and some of the challenges that he talked about were similarly challenging back then.

Anti-Social Behaviour Awareness Week is a good initiative. There are lots of groups that I could pay tribute to, but I will highlight ASB Help and Resolve in particular —two really good organisations that work year-round to tackle this blight on our communities. Hon. Members who made contributions have spoken about the lack of a co-ordinated approach to tackling antisocial behaviour. The hon. Member for Redcar said that it was one of the most pressing issues in his inbox, and I think that is probably the same for all Members of Parliament, whether their constituencies are rural, urban or a mix of both. His call to return to a common-sense policing approach to antisocial behaviour is the right one.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) talked about all of the issues with off-road biking, as did others, and that is something that particularly affects people across the country. I did not know that he had written two books, but I do now—I will make sure that I read them. The hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) talked about people feeling imprisoned in their homes, and had some good suggestions on off-road biking, which have been mentioned in this place many times before. There is a package of measures on off-road biking, and various Bills have been suggested by Members across the House, so there is agreement there and I hope the Minister is listening to those suggestions.

We are all aware of the real misery that antisocial behaviour causes. Before Christmas, in the autumn, I made trips across the country, in my role as shadow Policing Minister, to try to understand the scale and diversity of antisocial behaviour: how it affects different communities, the impact it has on them and what is being done about it. Those were eye-opening trips. Although each area was unique, everywhere I went it was clear that antisocial behaviour is not low-level crime; it is massively underestimated and massively under-prioritised in the way that policing is done in this country. It ruins lives, makes people feel unsafe and worried, and creates division in communities.

Photo of Sarah Jones
7 July 2022

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We both served on the Public Order Bill Committee and it was deeply concerning to note that there has been a large increase in the use of section 60, not just to tackle violent crime and threat of harm but protest without any real consideration of how that will increase disproportionality. That is a real risk. The figures on disproportionality and ethnicity and drug use have already been given. They are really stark, and there is a lot of work to be done on stop and search in that context.

Recent high-profile cases have highlighted concerns around policing. The conduct of officers following the murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman was deeply shocking for everybody. The strip-searching of children such as child Q and the adultification of children, particularly black children, that seems to be commonplace, the failings in the case of the death of Richard Okorogheye and the IOPC report on that and the conduct unveiled in the IOPC’s report into the Charing Cross police station show that there are pockets in policing where progress is not happening fast enough. Those pockets seem to cover large areas, because such problems have not just been seen in the Met police; we have seen similar issues across the country, so all forces need urgently to address the deep and troubling lack of confidence among black communities in policing and the criminal justice system.

I have been working with police chiefs and the NPCC since they set up a big programme of work on disproportionality and racism in policing, and I am pleased that their action plan is significantly better than it was when first drafted. It has been beefed up and has some real legs. I am pleased to see the recommendations in there and the very honest way in which the police chiefs have articulated the problem. They have set out an ambition to identify and address disproportionality in the use of stop and search, particularly in relation to drugs and searches of children. They will have robust accountability and learning processes, based on security and supervision.

The challenge with stop and search and disproportionality across the board is that we can see the numbers but we do not know why there is an issue. We assume things about racism, but there is not proper evidence. Evidence needs to be gathered about the places where people are stopped, the interactions and what happens to people. For example, if someone driving a car is stopped and searched, recording data is now being introduced. That was not the case before, and we know that there is huge disproportionality in stop and search for people who are driving. The evidence is not there for us to pull together and find out what needs to be done.

The NPCC will review the use of the smell of cannabis as grounds for stop and search, because that increases disproportionally. It will also review the use of Tasers, section 60, intimate searches and standardised recording practices. The breadth of what it has set itself to do shows how seriously it takes this issue. It will increase the awareness and understanding of every officer and member of staff about racism, anti-racism, black history and its connection to policing, through the introduction of a mandatory programme of training for all police officers and staff. Of course, we welcome that. It is looking at reducing racial disparities in misconduct cases and the complaints process, and is improving support to black officers and staff. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North highlighted, there are pockets of good practice, but it is not across the board.

The NPCC is looking to trial and test methods for better enabling black people to have their voices heard and raise concerns. It is looking at the criminal exploitation of young black men, which we have talked about, and is working to disrupt the cycle of victims becoming offenders.

The NPCC is introducing a national standard across all recruitment and promotion processes to minimise race disparities. The Home Affairs Committee suggested targets. I am quite a fan of targets, and I have had lots of conversations with police officers about the unintended consequences of them. It is good that the NPCC has gone for a national standard.

All that work is good, but I worry that the Government do not take this issue as seriously as they should. They tend to push it out to individual police forces or to the NPCC, when it chooses to come together. I worried about the introduction of serious violence prevention orders in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 without a proper analysis of what the disproportionate impact will be on young black men. I worried about the extension of section 60 to protests without any proper consideration of disproportionality. We all worried when we read the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report, which the Government commissioned, and the lack of action in it.

I worry that the Government have a habit of waiting for the IOPC or HMIC to look at something and bring out a report, which often takes years, instead of taking action themselves. For example, the IOPC and the inspectorate looked at what happened during lockdown in London, where there was an increase in the use of stop and search. Habits formed around handcuffing people—in particular, young black men—when they were being stopped and searched, which the police are not supposed to do unless there is a threat of violence. What I think happened was that a lot of new, inexperienced police officers came in through the uplift. They were not supervised properly and they learned bad behaviour. They learned how not to do stop and search, because more experienced people were not there to do it. I worry that the Government did not see that problem and intervene to do something about it.

The Labour party has long called for improved anti-racism policies and for tougher action to increase diversity in all ranks of policing. A clear combined plan needs to be implemented by police forces, driven by the Home Office, with proper scrutiny and consequences if action falls short. Racism and bias must be tackled wherever they are found.

After child Q, we all called for new guidance on strip searches, but we still have not seen it. When it comes to the pressing issues of reforming police culture and standards, there are myriad actions that Ministers could choose to take, but they point to inquiries that have been set up and tell us that we must wait for this and wait for that, without taking action themselves. A record number of police forces are in the engage phase, a form of special measures. We need a national overhaul of training and standards. There is much to be done on leadership in the police. We need better leadership development at every rank and a new vetting system. We need to overhaul misconduct cases and new rules on social media use. All of those things would help tackle some of the disproportionality and bad culture in the Home Office. All of those issues could be led from the front, with the Home Office taking action.

A lot of these problems are in the Met. If we look at its ratio of PC to sergeant, we will see that supervision has been cut more than that of any other force, so there are not enough supervisors to make sure that the right cultures and practices are in place for PCs. Surely the Government cannot be happy with that ratio and the lack of support for the raft of new officers. There has been a hollowing out of experience. The Government cannot replace the 21,000 experienced officers they have cut without losing all their helpful experience.

The report is very important. It highlights that progress has been made, but there is lots more to be done. I congratulate the police leaders and the NPCC who are independently pushing new proposals to improve things, but without Government intervention and leadership I do not think we will go fast enough. The suggestion that it will take 20 years to have a police service that is reflective of the communities they serve is a stark example of that.

The policing style in Britain is one of consent. The public have to trust the police for the system to work, and at the moment some communities, particularly black communities, do not. The public need to trust the police. Victims need to get the justice they deserve, regardless of the colour of their skin, and our officers deserve to work in a police force that has high standards and a respectful culture.

Given the chaos around us, the Minister does not have this power right now, but the new Government could choose to drive up standards. They could insist on the recruitment of more black officers, tackle disproportionality and increase professionalism in policing, instead of saying, time and again, as the former Policing Minister always did, that there is an inquiry into this, a report on that, and that we would just have to wait and see. Tackling racism is an active job. As one of the resigning Ministers, the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), said yesterday:

“not doing something is an active decision.”—[Official Report, 6 July 2022; Vol. 717, c. 876.]

Photo of Sarah Jones
7 July 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, on her important contribution today. I put on the record how incredibly important the Home Affairs Committee report is, how thorough and good it was, and how important it is, 20 years on from the Macpherson report, that there is something looking back on what has been achieved and what has not.

My right hon. Friend set out very well what stage we are at, and how much more needs to be done. I am particularly pleased that during the process the Committee managed to talk to young people about their experience at the other end of a stop and search. I was talking to a Conservative police and crime commissioner the other day, who is black, and has been stopped and searched many times. I suspect that most of us in this Chamber have not had that experience because we are white. To understand what it feels like, and how intrusive it can be, I think we need to speak to people who are affected. I congratulate the Committee for thinking to do that—and for ensuring it was done.

We have been talking about racism and disproportionality in policing for decades, certainly since the Scarman report in 1981, the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1992 and then the Macpherson report in 1999. That report was a watershed moment for British policing. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North said, the national figures on public confidence show that there is a significant variation, depending on their ethnicity, in people’s confidence in the police. Confidence in the police was at 74% for white British people, 69% for black African people and 54% for black Caribbean people. The murder of Stephen Lawrence and the campaigning that has been done since has been so important in shining a light on these issues. I cannot not mention Doreen and Neville Lawrence, who have been so instrumental and gracious in the way they have tried to help us all do better when it comes to these big problems of racism.

When the Home Affairs Committee looked at Macpherson, it did find, as has been said, that there has been positive progress in some areas and that the policing of racist hate crimes and the representation of ethnic minorities within police ranks has improved. However, it found that there are persistent, deep-rooted and unjustified racial disparities in key areas. It found a lack of confidence in the police, a lack of progress on recruitment, problems in misconduct proceedings and stark racial disparities in stop and search. Although the Committee found that policing today is very different from 22 years ago and that there have been improvements, there are persistent problems and unjustified racial disparities in a number of key areas.

Macpherson rightly called for police forces to be representative of their communities. At the current rate of recruitment, it will take 20 years until police forces are such. I represent Croydon Central. Croydon is a very diverse borough and although our police force have done some brilliant work with local communities on building trust and confidence—important work, and I praise them for it—the colour of our police officers is still not reflective of the communities that they serve. The unit that goes out and does stop and search in Croydon has about 80 people, and last time I checked there was not a single black officer among them. That absolutely has to change, and change is happening too slowly.

Black and minority ethnic police officers are more than twice as likely to be dismissed from their role than white officers. The report also found that stop and search is more disproportionate now than it was 22 years ago. We know that when it comes to stop and search, the measure of success is whether a knife or something similar is found. When the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) was Home Secretary and reduced the number of stop and searches and made it more intelligence-driven, the incidence of disproportionality fell in that period. It has got worse again with greater use of section 60 stop and search.

Photo of Sarah Jones
5 July 2022

We now seem to be in a position where No. 10 have just admitted that the Prime Minister was told about the upheld complaint, but he forgot. Has the Minister ever found himself in a position where he did not immediately recall being told of an upheld complaint of sexual harassment against a fellow Minister?

Photo of Sarah Jones
30 June 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether he is taking to steps to (a) minimise costs faced by claimants during an inquest when admissions of liability result in reasonable costs no longer being duty of the defendant and (b) allow bereaved families to further establish in law the principle of equality of arms between families and public bodies.

Photo of Sarah Jones
30 June 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many Legionnaires Disease (a) cases and (b) deaths in hospitals there have been since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic; what steps hospitals have taken to protect people with that condition from additional harm during the pandemic; and whether this will be investigated as part of the covid-19 Inquiry.

Photo of Sarah Jones
29 June 2022

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Many of us will have heard this morning and last night the dignified and gracious interviews with Mina Smallman following the announcement that Her Majesty's inspectorate is moving the Metropolitan police into what is called an “engage” phase. The way that the disappearance and then the deaths of Mina’s daughters were investigated, and the fact that altered images of their bodies were shared widely by some officers, have come to epitomise the problems within the Met that we, the Mayor of London and London residents have been so concerned about for some time.

We know that tens of thousands of people work in the Met and, of course, we know that so many have that sense of public duty that reflects the incredibly important job that they do. They have been let down by poor leadership, lack of resources and an acceptance of poor behaviour. It is for them, as well as for victims and the wider public, that we seek to drive forward improvements.

The announcement yesterday comes after a long list of serious conduct failures from the Metropolitan police: the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer, the conduct of officers following the murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, the strip-searching of children such as Child Q, the conduct unveiled in the report of the Independent Office for Police Conduct into the Charing Cross police station and the

“seemingly incomprehensible failures to recognise and treat appropriately a series of suspicious deaths in the Stephen Port case”.

The list of failings from the inspectorate makes for grim reading and goes way beyond those more high-profile cases: it includes performance falling far short of national standards, a barely adequate standard of crime recording and the quality of basic supervision to officers. All that has undermined public trust, and we all have a role to play in building that trust back up. As the Mayor of London has said, a first and crucial step for the new commissioner will be to start rebuilding trust and credibility in our communities.

The Minister’s announcement about what needs to be done is incredibly weak. He talks about support for victims, but where is the victims’ law that the Government have been promising for years? We know there is a massive increase across the country in the number of cases collapsing because victims drop out—on his watch. He talks about reform to comprehensively address the strip searches on children, but he has totally failed to bring forward the new guidance on strip searches that we have been calling for for months. He talks about reforming culture, but he only refers to two long-term inquiries that may not provide answers, even though we know that action is needed now.

The Minister is right that the system for holding forces to account has worked in this case, but we need change to follow. We need a national overhaul of police training and standards. There is much to be done on leadership. We need a new vetting system. We need to overhaul misconduct cases, with time limits on cases. We need new rules on social media use. We need robust structures for internal reporting to be made and taken seriously, and we need new expected standards on support for victims, investigation of crimes, and internal culture and management. That is for the Home Office to lead.

The Met cut its police constable to sergeant supervision ratio after the Conservatives cut policing, and after the Olympics—when the Minister was deputy mayor—it was cut more than any other force. A police sergeant said this morning:

“I do not have a single officer that I supervise that has over 3 years’ service, so not a single officer that policed pre Covid.”

Does the Minister now accept that, no matter how much he promises in terms of new, young and inexperienced officers right now, the Met and forces across the country are still suffering from the loss of 20,000 experienced officers that his Government cut?

Policing should be an example to the rest of society, and supporting our police means holding officers and forces to the highest possible standards. The concerns today are about the Met, but we know there are problems in other forces, too. Can the Minister confirm how many other forces are in this “engage” phase, and which forces they are? Can he outline what the steps the Home Office is taking now to drive up standards in the police across the country?

The British style of policing depends on public trust. The public deserve a police service that they not only trust, but can be proud of. Victims need an efficient and effective force to get them justice. Our officers deserve to work in a climate without bullying, toxic cultures. We need to see urgent reforms. The Government can no longer leave our police facing a perfect storm of challenges and fail to lead that change.

Photo of Sarah Jones
29 June 2022

May I add my condolences to the family of Zara Aleena after her horrific murder?

I am deeply disappointed with the Minister, who shared with us a statement that included none of the political attacks on the Mayor of London that we have just heard. The statement that we were sent was much shorter, and it contained not a single political attack on the Mayor of London. That is very bad form, as I am sure you would agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, and it is not how things should be done.

Photo of Sarah Jones
21 June 2022

I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he is exploring what more can be done and for accepting that injunctions have a role to play. I suspect that members of the other place may want to return to this at another stage, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Photo of Sarah Jones
21 June 2022

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Sarah Jones
21 June 2022

It is slightly alarming that the Minister fails to understand the concept of checks and balances to ensure that such a serious and significant piece of legislation is properly implemented, but I will not divide the Committee. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Photo of Sarah Jones
21 June 2022

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The new clause would require the Secretary of State to develop a consistent monitoring tool that is accessible by all police forces to monitor the use of, or requests for, specialist protest officers across England and Wales. Data that is collected may be used to evaluate capacity and demand for specialist officers. The tool, which must be accessible nationally, regionally and locally, could include examples of best practice from policing protests and data on how many trained officers have been required for any protest during the monitoring period.

I will not go into more detail than that, as the new clause speaks to arguments that we have already made for new clauses 10 and 11.

Photo of Sarah Jones
21 June 2022

Although we will not press the new clause to a vote, I hope that I have put on the record the Labour party’s concern and our expectation that the Minister will come back to discuss with us the guidance that will be issued to ensure that the Bill is implemented as effectively as possible. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Photo of Sarah Jones
21 June 2022

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause makes provision for consolidated protest guidance, bringing together the College of Policing’s public order authorised professional practice, the NPCC’s operational advice for protest policing and the NPCC’s protest aide-mémoire. The guidance must also include specific updated guidance about the protest technique of locking on. Similarly to the previous new clause, new clause 11 would help the police—in what we think is a broadly-defined piece of legislation—gather the guidance and equip themselves with the statistics necessary to do their job to the best of their ability. If the evidence sessions pointed to anything, it was that at the top of the police, there are good practices of introspection. They talk about and share good practice and want to scrutinise what is done well and what is done badly. The new clause merely puts that in law.

On training, Matt Parr believed that more could be done—although he was complimentary in some areas. The Minister talked about the specialist forces. He highlighted that that was patchy. When it comes to provisions on the policing of protests in this legislation, the NPCC remains concerned about some aspects of the document’s commentary, which it felt were open to misinterpretation. For that reason, we think it would be better to have that clarity in the law, which the new clause seeks to do.

Name(Required)
Address

©2024 Copyright Sarah Jones